Everyone has heard of the Soo Locks in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but did you know there are locks in the Northern Lower Peninsula?
Cheboygan River is home to “the little lock that can.” The lock serves thousands of boaters each year with access to and from Lake Huron to about 45 miles inland. The Cheboygan River Lock can accommodate boats up to 16-feet wide and 75-feet long leaving only six inches on either side.
The lock holds 117,000 gallons of water and lowers and raises 15 feet. In comparison to the Soo Locks that requires 22 million gallons of water and can accommodate ships over 1,000 feet the Cheboygan Lock seems like a kiddie pool. But the Cheboygan Lock plays a vital role in the recreational opportunities and economies of the towns along the rivers. Over 4,500 watercrafts use the lock each season giving access to the river and other sections that otherwise would be accessible.
The lock was first built in 1869 by veterans of the Civil War. It was rebuilt to give access to the Northern Michigan’s Inland Waterway to larger vessels in 1927. This allowed the transportation of lumber into Lake Huron for delivery to other ports.
The lock is managed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and are almost exclusively used by recreation
There is a small charge to use the lock and they only accept cash. Recreational boats are charged $6 per direction and commercial boats are $12 to go through the lock. Depending on weather conditions, the lock opens on April 15th. It closes for the winter season on October 20th at 4:30pm. Hours of operation are updated in the harbor guide.
The lock is located just a mile south of Lake Huron and only a few blocks from downtown Cheboygan.
Cheboygan Lock and Dam Park is a great park to view boats going through dam and get below the locks. Picnic facilities, short trails, and interpretive signs.
The Inland Waterway includes 3 rivers and 3 lakes on the 42 miles between Cheboygan and Conway near Petoskey. There are boat launches located along the route as well as numerous marinas for fuel and supplies. On the Crooked River is another lock that we will talk about in our next article.
If you would like to experience the lock and the waterway but do not have a boat, there are many watercraft rentals in the area. Below are a few that provide rentals on the Inland Waterway.